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The carbon footprint of office consumption is disproportionately large. With almost 200 million U.S. workers, an enormous flow of resources is extracted, produced and used in offices. But the good news is, it’s becoming easier to reduce this impact by making smarter choices at work. Conservation of energy and resources at the office, makes a positive, cost effective difference for personal health and the environment.
Today’s shifting marketplace makes finding green options, for most any office need, more readily available. From ‘digital systems,’ that save paper and ink, to non-toxic cleaning supplies and recyclable products, businesses are saving money with greener, more sustainable choices. Conservation and recycling keep millions of tons of valuable waste out of landfills each year, while reducing pollution and creating new jobs. Every office that uses resources, heat and cooling more efficiently, helps their bottom line.
Green America is a Washington DC based, non-profit, consumer advocacy group focused on creating a green economy. Division Director, Todd Larsen, educates and actively campaigns for Corporate Responsibility with programs like ‘Green Pages,’ a growing, online source for green businesses, products and services, including office supplies. He says office related consumption, waste and pollution, is large, for a small sector of the economy.
Larsen: If you look at information from the US energy information administration, they find that commercial building account for about 20% of US energy consumption and are responsible about 12% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. There are so many technologies and simple things that business owners could do that could reduce that figure dramatically. You can reduce it by 25% or more with simple steps and if you take a few more sophisticated steps, you can decrease your office usage by 50%.
Larsen says businesses are saving money with high quality re-filled printer cartridges and says most waste can be a resource.
Larsen: Millions of disposable pens every year are manufactured in the United States and thrown out and go into landfill. Those pens are probably made of petroleum products so you’re sucking petroleum out of the earth and turning it into a pen that’s used for a small amount of time and then you’re throwing it away and it needs to degrade. Another big impact obviously, is copy paper. And if you’re using virgin fiber paper, it takes 24 trees make a ton. A lot of offices go through tons of office paper using hundreds and hundreds of trees every year when they could be using recycled paper instead.
After a career in public high school teaching, San Franciscoan Alex Szabo ramped up his ideas about social justice and ecological balance, by taking action in the business world, for positive change. Paul Hawkin’s book, The Ecology of Commerce sparked his passion and armed with a master’s degree in Green Business, he founded ‘thegreenoffice.com,’ a dedicated online source for clean office products.
Szabo: Buying green products is a great way of lessening your ecological impact. Essentially what you’re doing is looking for products that are manufactured in a way that lessens their carbon footprint, lessens the energy they use, lessens the use of raw materials. Products that incorporate recycled content, that are biodegradable or compostable, that have some forms of reduced chemical content or that have third-party certification like USDA Organic, Energy Efficient, Greenseal and so forth.
thegreenoffice.com rates over 40,000 items for their ‘greenness.’ The cost of many green office products is comparable to that of conventional goods.
Szabo: The good news is that today there are many ways in which we can go green and ways that are generally easy and cost-effective. The choices you make when you’re shopping all have an impact and they all add up and the consumer has power to actually vote with their dollar for sustainability. And your essentially indicating to the market that real demand exists for positive change.
For more on the multiple benefits of greening your workplace, and other eco-living ideas, please visit us at gooddirtradio.org.
When enough people learn about critical issues and take positive action, real change can happen. We urge you to find issues you care about and get involved.
I’m Tami Graham and I’m Tom Bartels. Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio, digging up good news…. for a change.